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Once autumn ends and the snow starts falling, many campers pack up their gear until the spring thaw makes the outdoors more habitable. But, in this author’s opinion, they’re missing out on some of the best moments this planet has to offer. In winter landscapes transform into stunning winter wonderlands, with snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, and frosted trees painting a picturesque backdrop for your camping adventure. It also often means fewer crowds and quieter surroundings. That said, winter camping is quite a bit different than camping the rest of the year, and requires substantially more gear to keep you warm and dry. Here are some of our favorite items that keep the cold at bay and smiles on our faces.
This post specifically features winter camping and overland gear. For clothing options that will keep you warm in the winter, check out our Winter Clothing Essentials guide here. For more info on how to get started camping, or how to turn your vehicle into a camping paradise without breaking the bank, check out these articles.
A few years back I found myself in Iceland in the middle of near freezing downpour during a video shoot. Our van had broken down on the side of the road, which meant the heater that was supposed to keep us warm that night didn’t work. Thankfully I had grabbed two 0-degree sleeping bags when I was packing, at the time thinking that they were complete overkill for this trip. Not only did they keep me toasty in the back of the van while I waited 18 hours for the rental company to come pick us up, but I’ve used them multiple times since, keeping them in my car all winter long just in case I found myself stranded in the mountains.
This Kelty Cosmic Synthetic Fill 0 Degree Sleeping Bag is an excellent choice for a winter camping trip for several reasons:
Warmth: With its 0-degree temperature rating, this sleeping bag provides ample insulation to keep you warm even in freezing conditions. The synthetic fill retains heat efficiently, ensuring a comfortable and cozy night’s sleep in cold weather.
Versatility: Whether you’re camping in a tent, a camper van, or a makeshift shelter, the Kelty Cosmic Sleeping Bag adapts to various camping setups. Its versatile design makes it suitable for different winter camping scenarios, providing reliable warmth wherever your adventure takes you.
Durability: Constructed with high-quality materials and craftsmanship, this sleeping bag is built to withstand the rigors of winter camping. The durable outer shell resists tears and abrasions, while the synthetic fill maintains its loft and insulation properties even with repeated use.
Affordability: Priced at $129.95, the Kelty Cosmic Sleeping Bag offers excellent value for its performance and features. It provides the warmth and comfort needed for winter camping without breaking the bank, making it an accessible option for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget.
Packability: Despite its warmth and insulation, this sleeping bag remains relatively lightweight and compressible. It packs down efficiently into a compact size, allowing for easy transport and storage when not in use. Its packability makes it convenient for backpacking or car camping adventures where space is limited.
When embarking on winter car camping or overlanding adventures, comfort and insulation are key for a good night’s rest. This sleeping mat provides an unparalleled level of luxury with its generous four inches of plush foam and 30D stretch knit fabric, ensuring a cozy sleep surface even in chilly conditions. The 6.5 E-Value rating makes it particularly suited for cold weather excursions, while the innovative Internal Delta Core technology reduces weight without compromising on support. Available in various sizes, including Regular Wide, Large Wide, and Double, it caters to different vehicle setups and sleeping preferences, making it an ideal companion for winter explorations.
- Four-inches of foam for comfort
- 6.5 E-Value insulation ideal for cold weather
- Lightweight with Internal Delta Core technology for support
- Available in various sizes including Regular Wide, Large Wide, and Double to fit multiple vehicles
Efficient organization is essential for optimizing limited space in a vehicle during winter camping expeditions. These packing cubes offer a durable and lightweight solution for keeping gear neatly arranged, from extra layers and gloves to camp kitchen essentials and snacks. Available in a set that includes XS, SM, MD, LG, and XL cubes, they accommodate various items while the TPU laminated 70D ripstop Nylon construction ensures durability and water resistance. The translucent window panel allows easy identification of contents, simplifying access to necessities amidst the adventure.
- Durable and lightweight packing cubes for organization
- Set includes XS, SM, MD, LG, XL sizes
- Translucent window panel for easy content viewing
- Made from TPU laminated 70D ripstop Nylon for water resistance
Moisture management and organization are key challenges for winter van-lifers; the key to staying warm in the winter is staying dry, and these stuff sacks provide an effective solution. Designed to allow gear to breathe and dry, they combat moisture buildup inside your vehicle. This set is available in different sizes, including 3L, 5L, 8L, or 5L, 8L, 13L, catering to diverse storage needs. Color-coded for easy identification and featuring tear-proof drawcord throats with super-strong hypalon pull-tabs, these sacks ensure hassle-free access and secure storage. The addition of nylon webbing handles enhances convenience by providing a secure grab point, making them indispensable companions for winter adventures on the road.
- Breathable mesh stuff sacks combat moisture
- Available in sets of 3L, 5L, 8L, or 5L, 8L, 13L
- Color-coded for easy organization
- Tear-proof drawcord throat and hypalon pull-tabs for durability
Winter nights can be long and dark, especially in remote camping locations. The BioLite AlpenGlow Mini Lantern illuminates the surroundings with warmth and ambiance, enhancing the camping experience. Its compact size and versatile hanging options make it perfect for lighting up tents, cooking areas, or outdoor seating spaces. With multiple lighting modes and a rechargeable battery, it ensures reliable illumination throughout the night, adding comfort and convenience to winter car camping adventures.
- Compact lantern for portable illumination
- Perfect for lighting up campsites or vehicle interiors
- Provides essential light during dark winter evenings
- Durable construction for outdoor use
Sleeping bags rated for less than 0 degrees Fahrenheit are expensive, as well they should be. They’re literally keeping you alive overnight, and that takes a lot of down or synthetic insulation. Instead of dropping $800 on a Marmot down mummy bag fit for an Everest or Antarctica expedition, for $90 this fleece liner fits right inside your sleeping bag and can add up to 32 degrees of warmth, or so says the description on Amazon. In order to test it out, I waited until the coldest night of the winter and hopped in the back of my Crosstrek to compare my zero-degree bag on its own and with the fleece liner.
Wearing a layer of thermals, a pair of chunky wool socks and a Patagonia R1 hoody, the evening started off surprisingly toasty in my bag alone, with the key word in that sentence being “started.” I tend to fluctuate during the night being a cold sleeper and a warm sleeper, and more than once have I woken in the middle of the night shivering in my tent. Once I began to feel the chill of the negative temps outside, I hopped in the liner and from then on was more than comfortable.
It’s important to be warm but not so warm that you’re sweating, as sweating leads to heat loss. That’s why I like the Reactor Liner. I have four different sleeping bags that each have varying degrees of temperature comfort, and being able to adjust each of them with a liner makes my entire kit more versatile.
- Outer material: Thermolite Fleece
- Fabric type: 100% Polyester
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 79” x 28” x 0.4”
- Weight: 0.9 lbs
The worst part of any winter camping trip for me is usually the morning. I’m nice and cozy in my bag, and even though I know I have to get up, there is absolutely no part of me, mind or body, that wants to. Eventually the urge to go to the bathroom compels me to, but I still haven’t found a way to make those mornings pleasant. However, I do have a way to make them just a bit more bearable: coffee. For a long time I would sit up in my sleeping bag, turn on my stove and boil a pot of water, a third of which would spill out as I tried to pour it into my pour-over, or in some instances of desperation, my mug of instant coffee.
That’s where this collection of cookware comes in. For years I’ve used similar, collapsible options from Sea to Summit, and I’ve really liked them. At first I was scared of melting the sides of the pots, which are made of silicone, but after half a decade of use, I have yet to ruin them. They’re fairly easy to clean, and once they’re dry, you can collapse them down so they don’t take up too much space in your vehicle. Plus, the kettle makes quick work of a pour-over coffee on a chilly February morning.
This three-piece set does have a steep price, but if you only need the kettle, that can be bought separately for only $25. It’s also worth noting that these sets do go on sale, in my experience, fairly regularly, so if you have time to wait for the best price, I’d suggest it.
- Materials: Food-grade silicone, hard anodized aluminum
- 2.8L pot, 8” pan, 1.3L kettle
- Weight: 1lb 12oz
If you’re going to be storing your luggage outside at any point, it’ll be open to all of the elements winter has to throw at it. This is where a weather-resistant or waterproof duffel comes in handy. I’ve used all sizes of The North Face’s Base Camp Duffel; it’s been subject to freezing rain in Iceland, downpours in the Pacific Northwest, snow in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the dirt and sand of Australia and New Zealand, and its contents have always arrived just as clean and dry as when the trip started. Your mileage may vary. When not traveling, I store all of my duffels together in the largest one. It keeps things less cluttered and doesn’t take up much space.
Know of any other good winter camping items? Leave them in the comments below.